CHICAGO ORCHARD (DOUGLAS) AIRPORT
Ralph H. Burke
CITY OF CHICAGO
Martin H. Kennelly
Please RETURN TO
October 27, 19^7
To the Honorable Chairman and
Members of the Committee on Aviation
of the City Council
There is presented herewith a preliminary report on plans
for the proposed Chicago Orchard (Douglas) Airport. In this report
definite conclusions are reached and recommendations made for the
adoption of a basic master plan for the Airport.
Your Committee and all of us who have been concerned with
plans for the new airport are conscious of the necessity for immediate
action in expanding Chicago's airport facilities. The two elements of
design which determine the size and shape of the airport, namely, the
runway layout and the central terminal plan have been the subject of
an extensive study during the last few months. With the determination
of these two elements definite recommendations can now be made to the
City, which will allow progress toward the realization of the new
We recommend therefore to your Committee and to the City
Council that the following definite actions be immediately taken:
(a) Approval of the Master Plan for the Chicago Orchard (Douglas)
Airport as presented in the accompanying report.
(b) Passage of an ordinance establishing the boundaries of the
proposed airport (superceding the existing ordinance which included
only the portion of the needed land) .
(c) Authorization to the proper officers of the City to make
offers to the owners of said property and to take such further steps
as necessary to acquire the property.
(d) Authorization of negotiations with the Chicago & Northwestern
Railroad for the diversion of the railroad tracks to a new location to
allow the construction of the airport.
Ralph H. Burke
CHICi&O ORCHARD (DOUGLAS) AIRPORT
Ralph H. Burke
The creation of a major international airport to serve as the
principal airport for Chicago has "been definitely "before the people for
the past two years. Previous studies and reports "by the Chicago Plan
Commission, the Chicago Regional Planning Association, the Chicago
Association of Commerce, the Economic Advisory Council and others
served to emphasize the need for early action. In 19^5 the Mayor ap-
pointed an Airport Selection Board to select a site for -
"The "best airport - the safest, the most convenient and
with the most capacity of any airport on this continent."
This Board, under the chairmanship of Mr. Merrill C. Meigs,
included among its members engineers, architects, attorneys, airline
executives and council members who contributed to the problem a broad
cross section of thinking of the entire city. After several months of
hearings and discussions covering the expression of facts and opinions
of a great variety of aviation and civic interests, a report was made
in November 19^5 to the Mayor and City Council containing certain
The chief recommendations of the Airport Selection Board were
1. That Chicago would be best served and should create one major
airport primarily for passenger traffic.
2. That the site at the Douglas Plant in the vicinity of Mannheim
and Higgins Roads affords the greatest advantages as the site for the
3. That, while the Board did not feel it within their province to
determine the runway pattern of the new field, nevertheless tentative
layouts were considered and the area selected was based on the tangen-
tial runway plan.
k. That the selection of the Douglas site was predicated upon the
early construction of the Northwest Superhighway to give it ready access
to all parts of the City.
Following these recommendations, the City of Chicago in March
19*1-6 obtained from the Federal Government a grant of 1080 acres compris-
ing the existing flying field used by the Army during the war as the
proving ground for aircraft manufactured at the Douglas Aircraft Plant.
In December 19^6 the City contracted with Ralph H. Burke as Airport Con-
sultant to study and develop plans, to recommend a course of procedure
to the City Council and to supervise construction of the airport.
With the crystallization of thought produced by the earlier
studies, hearings and reports of the Airport Selection Board and the
other public planning agencies, detailed studies toward the development
of a Master Plan for the airport has proceeded with diligence during the
year 19^7 . This has involved not only an intense study by the staff
directly employed by the Consultant, but also frequent meetings and
parallel studies by the technical and building committees of all the
airlines, by the Civil Aeronautics Administration and the State Depart-
ment of Aeronautics and by other planning agencies, all of whom through-
out these studies have been extremely co-operative in developing the
plan as it exists today.
The basic elements of the design of the airport are (a) capacity,
(b) adequacy of dimensions, (c) safety, (d) public convenience.
In the entire history of aviation, not a single airport has
ever been built of sufficient capacity to meet the ever growing needs
of air travel. The new Chicago Airport must avoid this mistake. It
must be predicated on a master plan, which can be progressively developed
to provide adequately for all predictable future needs. Traffic charts
based upon past experience at all airports follow well developed and
consistent curves which indicate a traffic requirement of 250 plane
movements per peak hour within 15 years. Growth should not stop, how-
ever, at this point. These studies also overlook the essential element
that Chicago, at the heart of the nation, possesses a potential for
growth of traffic not present in the other major airports, most of which
are located at the seaboard. Chicago draws from a complete circle and
has within a radius of 500 miles one half of all the industrial centers
of the country. Chicago is therefore destined to outstrip other cities
as the air hub of the nation.
The master plan for the new airport, to provide wisely for the
future growth which is bound to come, must therefore be capable of ex-
pansion to an ultimate capacity of at least 360 plane movements per peak
Many studies have been made to give consideration to all types
of runway patterns. The advocates of parallel runways and tangential
runways have been heard at length, both by the Airport Selection Eoard
and at hearings conducted Jointly by the Commissioner of Public Works
and the Airport Consultant.
The conclusions reached are that the tangential pattern is the
only one which provides the desired capacity, it is of equal or greater
safety than the parallel type, it is more efficient in operation by
avoiding excessive taxying distances and provides convenient and acces-
sible rentable space for hangars, repair shops and other incidental
Adequacy of Dimensions
The airport must accommodate the largest and heaviest aircraft
to be used in international and inter-continental flying. The strength
of runways, taxi-ways and aprons can properly "be the subject of further
study and its determination now is unnecessary. The length of runways ,
however, must he fixed now as this element determines the size of the
There has existed through the years a tendency toward increased
size and speed of aircraft which has resulted in a demand for longer and
longer runways. This tendency must stop, however, if the aviation in-
dustry is to become stabilized. And it must become stabilized if it is
to support the huge investments for aircraft and airports now being made.
Increased speeds at landings and takeoffs involve greater
hazards which cannot be ignored in commercial aviation.
Greater runway lengths require the assembly of large tracts of
land which can only be acquired at considerable distances from the in-
dustrial centers which the airports are to serve. This introduces the
element of time of surface travel to reach the airport. Increased size
therefore defeats the purposes of air travel.
There exists also the necessity for uniform runway lengths at
all the major airports of the nation, since each of such ports are but
links in the chain of national airports.
All these considerations point to the necessity of establishing
standards for runway lengths on a national scale. Thus, limits will be-
come recognized to which airports should be built and within which air-
craft will be designed.
A start has been made in the direction of establishing such
standards. Largely at the instance of the City of Chicago, the Admini-
strator of the Civil Aeronautics Administration has suggested 7000 foot
runway lengths for international airports such as Chicago is to build.
Hearings were recently held in Washington on the subject and decisions
will probably be reached in the near future.
The plan for the Chicago Airport allows the ultimate construc-
tion of runways each 7500 feet long with additional allowance for
elevations above sea level. In addition, the tangential pattern would
allow the extension of runways to 10,000 feet so that one runway for
landing and one for take-off can always be used to a 10,000 foot length
simultaneously with the use of the other runways of 7500 foot length.
These runways should provide amply for the occasional and extraordinary
present necessity for a longer than standard runway as well as affording
a generous margin of safety for future technological developments.
The safety of an airport depends in part upon adequate markings
and the installation of approach aids such as the ILS and CG-A systems,
all of which will be installed in the new airport. The uniformity of
pattern of the symmetrical runway design also will aid in controlling
approaches and the wide spacing between the ends of the runways will
facilitate the guiding of aircraft from a holding circle to an approach
path for landing.
The central terminal plans provide not only for the requisite
gate positions to match the capacity of the field, "but also for a con-
centration of facilities for passengers, visitors and spectators which
avoids excessive walking distances. Convenient and logical arrangement
of traffic ways to individual passenger stations, of parking lots for
private automobiles and of central terminals for mass carriers make it
possible to limit the average walking distances for all persons at the
airport to about 700 feet. This figure is well within established
practice in railroad terminals and is a substantial improvement over
conditions at many present large airports .
The concentrations of facilities in the central terminal also
makes possible the development to the fullest of revenue to be derived
from non-flying sources. This plan therefore not only best serves the
public in providing convenient facilities, thus promoting the attrac-
tiveness of air travel, but also it serves to produce the maximum of
non-flying revenues which from an economic standpoint is an absolute
necessity for successful operation of the airport.
THE FINANCIAL PLAN
The estimated cost of the airport, excluding incidental pri-
vate investments on leaseholds and risk capital on a concession basis
is $75; 000, 000.
The City of Chicago through referendum election on June 4,
19^5 is empowered to issue $15,000,000 in general obligation bonds for
the improvement, extension and construction of airports. The main pur-
pose for which these bonds were voted was to construct a new major
airport at the Douglas site. While some funds have been expended for
Northerly Island Airport and more for rebuilding and repairs of the
Municipal Airport, the major part of such bonds should be devoted to
their original purpose, namely, the building of the new major airport.
$14,000,000 of these funds should be thus used.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration has not only signified
its willingness to approve the plans as now presented for the airport,
but they have tentatively allocated $2,600,000 from current funds to
aid in its construction. They have further indicated that, subject,
of course, to actual appropriations by future sessions of Congress,
Chicago would be eligible for a total grant of $17,000,000 for the
The State of Illinois has thus far made no commitment toward
the airport. The policy of the State has been at least to match local
funds for airport construction. In the present instance the direct
interest of the entire State will be served by constructing the new
Chicago airport since by providing an outlet on the major air arteries
of the nation it will enhance the value of every airport and every
business center throughout the State. The State has been asked to
match Chicago's funds and thus to make available through a five year's
construction program the sum of $1^,000,000 for the airport.
These three sources of public funds should thus supply a total
of $^5, 000, 000. The remaining $30,000,000 should take the form of
revenue bonds issued by the City of Chicago but payable only out of
earnings of the airport. With the full development of non-flying
revenue which may ultimately total nearly $5*000,000 annually plus
the contracts and guarantees of the commercial airlines and other com-
mercial users of the field of revenues from landing fees and rentals,
a total net income should be assured, which not only will cover operat-
ing costs but also will service and amortize the revenue bonds.
The plans as presented comprise a comprehensive Master Plan for
the Chicago Orchard (Douglas) Airport.
It not only provides the necessary capacity for immediate needs
but also is capable of expansion progressively as the air traffic of the
It is the most economical in the use of fewer runways for the
It conforms to the suggested national standards as to length of
runways for international airports.
It possesses e3.ements of safety approved by the Civil Aeronautics
Administration, the airlines and many other aviation groups.
It provides to a greater extent than any existing airport for
the convenience of the traveling and general public.
It can be successfully financed both initially and ultimately
by the joint application of public funds and special revenue bonds to be
serviced and amortized by operating income.
It must be emphasized that the adoption of the Master Plan does
not carry with it any idea of complete construction in the initial stages.
A program of stage construction is now under study which will call for
initial expenditures of only a fraction of ultimate costs. The first stage
will provide for the combined use of new and existing runways and the con-
struction of a part of the central terminal to meet the initial traffic
demands. The ultimate plan will be fully constructed only when the growth
of traffic clearly indicates its necessity.
In the interest of making progress the Master Plan for the Chicago
Orchard (Douglas) Airport should be adopted. The boundaries of the airport
to allow the full ultimate development should be fixed by ordinance to allow
acquisition of property to proceed. The necessity for a diversion of the
Chicago & Northwestern Pailroad tracks is a certainty and an agreement
between the City and the railroad company should be effected at as early a
date as possible.
LIST OF EXHIBITS
1. Boundary and Runway Layout
2. Study of relocation of Chicago & Northwestern and Chicago, Milwaukee
& St. Paul Pailroad tracks
3. Two level, split finger, above ground terminal layout - Scheme 7 f25
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